Union Point Park, Oakland, USA

Source: Oakland Wiki: Ivan


Mario Schjetnan, Mexico City; Ptillo
Garret/PGA, Oakland California

Type of Area


Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Completely built

Scale of Impact


Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Moderate site

Project Types

Urban waterfront restoration
Public green space regeneration
Outdoor recreation

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Fully enclosed
Fully contained view

Industrial Space Transformed

The Union Point Park forms part of a system of parks and trails in the San Francisco Bay area. This 3.6-acre waterfront site is a mix of commercial and residential development that provides an attractive open space in an area of Oakland previously lacking such space. The park, developed on a previous industrial site, is inspired by coastal landscapes with dunes in a series of mounds. A 7m high mound provides excellent views across the bay.

Union Point Park largely serves the local immigrant community and reflects the vision and collective efforts of a broad range of community groups, agencies, and individuals. Use of marine artefacts, such as ship cleats, offers a sense of place and adds to the layers of history, meaning and myths. However, as the site views from the access road are missing landmarks or focal points, it therefore lacks character and identity. The primary recreational uses include boating activities connected to the marina, walking and cycling along the extensive pathways, viewing and fishing. The site provides sufficient parking, a children’s play area and spaces for picnicking socialising, family gatherings and performance events. 

Recreational opportunities are enhanced by a mix of hard and soft surfaces, pergolas for shade, piers, benches, trees and pathways. Facilities include sheltered picnic areas with barbeques and public toilets. Riprap on the shore edges, bridges and piers offer informal seating spaces to enjoy the view close to or over the water. The children’s play area equipment, inspired by the shape of a ship is interesting and unique. The design of the park, however, did not consider the chilly onshore wind. Wind breaks are provided which force people to use those spaces for picnic spaces, which are limited as the place gets overcrowded. Despite having good facilities, the site feels unsafe due to the large number of homeless, litter and substandard toilet facilities. 

Perception and Meaning

Place identity
Place attachment

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Increased physical activities
Increases socialisation
Aesthetic experience

Interaction with Water


The site is situated besides the Embarcadero road a dual carriage way city street and has vehicular entry points at northern and southern end of the site into large parking lots. The pedestrian connection to the site from the surrounding area is weak, however. Clean paths made from concrete slabs, makes it convenient for people with disabilities; however, the coastal path is not continuous and stops at the edge of the site. The site is can be accessed by boat due to the presence of the marina. There is no public transport provision near the site within 400 m walking distance. 

The overall design quality is excellent and makes good use of the artifacts from its industrial heritage. The dunes also improve the access to views across the bay area. The range of facilities is good but lacks enough protection from the sun and chilly onshore winds.

There is scope for many formal and informal physical activities in the open spaces. Health and well-being potential overall is excellent as a site that provides green space designed in collaboration with the local community. Footpaths and piers also have protective railings. However, more recently the site feels less secure due to the presence of homeless and other people. Water safety is also a potential issue along the shoreline.